July 12, 2005

Dog bites man–film at 11…

What’s the news? That–surprise!–a presidential press secretary takes a licking and keeps on ticking. This just in: All commercial aircraft in the U.S. take off and land with a major accident yesterday.

Dana Milbank, of the Washington Post, writes:

The 32-minute pummeling was perhaps the worst McClellan received since he got the job two years ago. His eyes were red and tired. He wiggled his foot nervously behind the lectern and robotically refused to answer no fewer than 35 questions about Rove and the outing of the CIA’s Valerie Plame. Twenty-two times McClellan repeated that an “ongoing” investigation prevented him from explaining the gap between his past statements and the facts.

The guys at Snarkmarket beg to differ with my post yesterday. Interesting blog; check it out.

Am I being deliberately absurd? Yes and no. I want journalists to begin questioning the reportorial ritual. What would happen if they stopped attending the press gaggle? Or, what would they have to do differently? I like the implications and possibilities of the latter.

7 Responses

  1. Part of the apparent problem is that the gaggle in question only very occasionally comes off to the public as hard-hitting or protective of democracy. The White House and its Press Corps are seen as discrete, self-interested parties, engaging each other purely for their own amusement.

    I wouldn’t want the reporters to abandon the press briefings whole-hog. I would want them to cede their press passes to the citizenry. Let some real, likeable, well-informed, flesh-and-blood people into the briefing room to have at Scott McClellan. “Mr. McClellan, my name is Dorothy Schwartzmann from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and I want to know why we haven’t heard anything from Mr. Bush when his right-hand man looks to have endangered an agent of our country’s central intelligence service?”

    The press corps’ decorum is played out. I think if you could get the genuine stakeholders in the room, you’d see some true Senatorial decorum, vintage 1902.

  2. acline 

    Matt…I like that idea. Perhaps we’ll see it begin to happen with bloggers. And, I agree, ordinary people often ask better questions than the press. I think this happens because their concerns are vital to their personal lives rather than vital to a profession.

  3. JPEarl 

    Doc,
    Is there a reason to why the reporters in the press-room are being so persistent and aggressive on this issue? It seems as though the Downing Street Memo and other issues of the same suit have been far more ethically damaging for this administration. Yet, the reporters rarely (or never) become as torrid on those issues. Although I agree that they were foolish to get so mad, it is encouraging to see them put some heat on the administration. I just wonder why on this issue.

  4. acline 

    JP- IMO, I don’t think this is ideological. If the press truly were a bunch of rabid liberals, they’s be hounding about the DS memo, too. So much for the predictive accuracy of liberal bias 🙂

    The thing with McClellan is a matter of A = A. McClellan said something that now appears not to conform to reality. It’s easily understood as A = non-A.

    The anger (and I’m guessing here) probably comes from the fact that McClellan is good at dodging questions and, apparently, good at dodging them such that A = non-A. In the current journalistic epistemology (undergirded as it is by a correspondence theory of truth), McClellan’s willful dodging just makes their heads pop.

  5. Charles Knell 

    I think this is the best MSM analysis of the behavior of the MSM that I’ve seen. Fineman on MSNBC

  6. acline 

    Better than mine? 🙂

    Charles! Welcome back!

    Yes, the Fineman commentary is cogent. Thanks for calling it to my attention.

  7. Charles Knell 

    Don’t let’s get carried away. As interesting as this blog is, MSM (by which I think we are saying mainstream media) it isn’t.